The European Union diplomat trying to revive a 2015 nuclear deal will visit Tehran this week, Iran announced Monday, as the United States expressed hope for progress.
Enrique Mora has played a key role as a mediator between the United States and Iran during a year of on-off talks in Vienna that have stalled since March.
Mora will meet with Ali Bagheri, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said at a weekly news briefing.
“Mora’s trip moves the talks in the right direction,” said Khatibzadeh.
The date of Mora’s arrival in the Iranian capital has not been confirmed, but local press reported that he is expected on Tuesday.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States looks forward to hearing Mora’s assessments from Tehran.
“We support his efforts to bring these negotiations to a successful conclusion,” Price told reporters.
“We are confident that if the Iranians are willing to act in good faith, we can quickly conclude these negotiations so that we can continue to build and move forward on the significant progress made over months and months of often arduous diplomacy and negotiations.” , he said.
The 2015 deal gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program to ensure it couldn’t develop nuclear weapons, something Tehran has always denied.
In an interview with the Financial Times published on Saturday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he was looking for a “middle way” to bridge the remaining gap between Tehran and Washington.
He said he wanted Mora to visit Tehran but Iran had been “very reluctant”. He described the EU’s diplomatic push as “the last bullet” in an attempt to salvage the deal.
“We can’t go on like this forever because Iran is meanwhile developing its nuclear program,” Borrell added.
Remaining sticking points
The deal was agreed between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, China, Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom and France, and Germany.
But Washington unilaterally withdrew under then-President Donald Trump in 2018 and re-imposed harsh economic sanctions, prompting Iran to back down on its own commitments.
Talks in Vienna have focused on bringing Washington back into the deal and lifting its sanctions, while ensuring Tehran fully honors its own commitments.
For decades, Iran and the United States have only been indirectly involved in negotiations and exchanged views on the EU Mora, although Tehran has negotiated directly with the remaining parties to the deal.
Among the main sticking points that remain is Iran’s request to remove its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from a US terrorist list, a move the Biden administration has rejected.
But Khatibzadeh said the media “must not reduce the issues between Iran and the United States to a single issue like the Guards.”
Khatibzadeh also said Monday that the “red lines set by the high authorities of the Islamic Republic have been respected and that is why we are here today,” without elaborating.
“If the United States decides today to respect the rights of the Iranian people, after Mora’s visit, we can travel to Vienna and sign the agreement,” he said.